Ultimate fitness hack: Imagine being able to build muscles with a gene therapy

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Credit: Salt Lake Tribune

Trying to hack fitness is a multi-million-dollar industry; we’ve all seen at least one ad featuring a purported miracle product that claims it can make people lose weight and look great—without even trying. From low-effort exercise machines to strange-ingredient diets to fat-burning belts and bands, there’s no shortage of attempts to make it easy to be fit.

A gene therapy trial performed on mice may foreshadow yet another way to hack fitness. In a study done by a team at Washington University in St. Louis’ medical school, mice quickly built muscle mass and reduced obesity after receiving the therapy, even while eating a diet high in fat and not exercising. The results were published [May 8] in a paper in Science Advances.

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Talk about a fitness hack; imagine being able to build muscle and maintain a healthy metabolism while lounging on the couch eating burgers and fries. There have been similar studies to replicate the effects of exercise by commandeering the genetic instructions that control the way cells interact with proteins; though various “exercise pills” have successfully mimicked the effects of regular cardiovascular activity in mice, scientists still don’t fully understand how, at a molecular level, exercise has the effects it does on the human body.

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